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On summit eve, NATO divided on new members


Clinton arrives in Madrid

July 7, 1997
Web posted at: 5:28 p.m. EDT (2128 GMT)

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- On the eve of a NATO summit, the alliance remained divided as to how many former Cold War enemies should be invited to join it.

The 16-member alliance plans to invite at least three countries -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- to join the body in the first round of expansion.

Most European countries, led by France and Italy, also wanted to invite Romania and Slovenia to join. President Clinton, who arrived in Madrid on Monday, angered some alliance leaders when he announced last month that the United States did not want to include Romania and Slovenia. Britain and five others also opposed their invitation

France has said it will not pursue the subject to the point of an impasse. Instead, the alliance will debate how quickly to take a second round of new countries into the alliance.

"The U.S. is working very hard with the other allies to make sure that the language used in our communiqué meets the standard of (a) robust open door," said a senior U.S. administration official on the eve of the summit.

Admissions debate could eclipse other issues

Although the dispute over admission for all five countries has cooled, the first- and second-round admissions plan may eclipse other issues scheduled for the two-day summit.


The internal reorganization of the alliance is also high on the summit agenda. Now that the Cold War is over, NATO is ready to streamline its command structure. Europeans want more control of the organization -- another issue over which the United States and France are at odds.

France, opposed to American dominance of the alliance, wants more of the important military posts to go to Europeans and for Washington to cede NATO's southern command in Naples, Italy. The principal force of the southern command is the American 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Washington has adamantly refused.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday that Bosnia would also be on the summit agenda. She said the United States will ask the NATO allies to take "coordinated action" to further isolate the Bosnian Serbs, and ensure the success of the Dayton peace accords.

"Our operating principle is simple," she said. "We shall help those who help Dayton and isolate those who oppose the peace that the Dayton accords are to bring."

First-round no-go a damper for Romanian enthusiasm?

Supporters of the five-candidate invitation say they favor bringing all five former Warsaw Pact members in for continuity, and to bring stability to NATO's southern flank. Opponents say it will cost too much to bring all five members in -- and that it will antagonize Russia.

Newcomers must be democracies and at peace with their neighbors. They will benefit from the security that NATO provides, yet must also pull their weight and contribute to the security of their future partners.

Romania is eager to join, and says it is ready now. The country is spending $40 million a year to upgrade to NATO standards. The amount, totaling 3 percent of the country's gross national product, will improve Romania's military; it is twice the percentage spent by first-round invitees Hungary and the Czech Republic.

"Romanians see NATO as a hope, as an environment -- as a field of dreams, which is the Western Civilization," said Adrian Sarbu, the managing director of Romani's PROTV.

Romanians say their country is the bulwark for NATO's southern flank, sitting at the gateway to the oil-rich Black Sea. But some military advisers fear that Romania's failure to be part of the first round of new members could dampen the country's enthusiasm for NATO, and thus its financial commitment could weaken as well.

State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst and Correspondent Bill Delaney contributed to this report.

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